Sports Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Rahman signs for rematch with Lewis

NEW YORK -- Hasim Rahman will defend the WBC-IBF heavyweight titles for a minimum of $10 million in a November rematch with Lennox Lewis.

''We're very excited the deal is done,'' Steve Nelson, Rahman's co-manager, said Tuesday. ''We believe we're going to win again.''

Rahman became champion with a surprising fifth-round knockout of Lewis on April 22 at South Africa.

''Rahman has signed, Lewis has signed and TVKO wants it,'' Nelson said. TVKO is the pay-per-view arm of HBO, which has a multifight deal with Lewis.

''The fight definitely will be Nov. 10 or Nov. 17,'' Nelson said. ''We anticipate it will be in Las Vegas. We're very happy with the timing of the fight. Traditionally, big fights are held in November.''

Nelson said Rahman will get a percentage of the pay-per-view sales above a certain figure and share in other revenues.

''In all revenues relating to the fight, we will share in the upside,'' Nelson said. ''It was these percentages that led to the deal being finalized. We have assurances that Rock's minimum purse will be higher than what Lewis will make.''

Rahman's purse for the April fight was $1.5 million, while Lewis made $7 million. Lewis signed a contract with King on July 20.

Rockets re-sign Taylor

HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets re-signed free agent forward Maurice Taylor on Tuesday.

The team would not disclose terms, but according to several reports it was a six-year deal worth $48 million.

''In Mo, we really have a young talented player who is on the rise in his career,'' coach Rudy Tomjanovich said.

The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Taylor averaged 13 points and 5.5 rebounds last season, his first with Houston.

''I feel personally that he fits this team very well in the way he plays the game. He also fits the team in the kind of person he is,'' Tomjanovich said.

Sampras advances, Becker loses in doubles return

MASON, Ohio -- Pete Sampras, a three-time champion of the Tennis Masters-Cincinnati, advanced in the tournament's first round Tuesday, while defending champion Thomas Enqvist was eliminated.

The return to competitive tennis of Boris Becker after two years was short-lived Tuesday as he and partner Goran Ivanisevic were beaten 6-3, 6-2 by Todd Woodbridge and Jonas Bjorkman.

Sampras, who turns 30 on Sunday and has been fending off recent questions about when he might retire, reflected on the strength of challengers in today's world of pro tennis.

''It is tougher. No doubt about it,'' he said. ''Guys aren't quite as fearful of the top guys and go out with nothing to lose and you see upsets.''

The ninth-seeded Sampras, who is coming off a disappointing fourth-round loss at Wimbledon after winning the Grand Slam tournament seven of the last eight years, beat Nicolas Lapentti 6-3, 6-2 Tuesday.

Enqvist was upset 6-4, 6-0 by Nicolas Kiefer. It was only the second time since 1969 that the defending champion was eliminated in the first round.

A longer, stronger Augusta National

Trees were bulldozed to create new tee boxes. One fairway bunker was extended 15 yards, while another was doubled in size. About the only thing left untouched after sweeping changes to Augusta National Golf Club were the azaleas.

In what is considered the biggest overhaul in the 68-year history of the home of the Masters, the club altered nine holes and added nearly 300 yards in an effort to put a greater premium on accuracy off the tee.

''Our objective is to keep this golf course current,'' Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson said Tuesday in a statement that outlined the changes.

The official yardage is now 7,270 yards, up from 6,985 yards. Four of the par 4s are at least 460 yards, all of the par 5s are at least 500 yards and only one hole beside the par 3s is shorter than 400 yards -- the 350-yard third hole, still one of most challenging because of the green.

Tiger Woods will be defending his Masters title on a course he might not recognize.

When he finished off his two-stroke victory in April to sweep the majors, his drive sailed over the twin bunkers down the left side on No. 18, leaving him a sand wedge 75 yards from the green.

The 18th probably is the most changed of all.

The tee box was moved 60 yards back and 5 yards to the right, and the bunkers -- added in 1967 when the club thought the hole needed some teeth -- were enlarged by 10 percent. Carrying the bunkers requires a 320-yard drive, and trees have been added left of the bunkers.

A 405-yard cupcake is now a 465-yard hole, a much more demanding finish.

''These young guys hitting it as far as they hit it, it isn't going to make that much difference,'' Arnold Palmer said from the Fred Meyer Challenge in Oregon.

In fact, Palmer wasn't sure players would even notice the changes.

''You hear talk about them, and of course that calls a lot of attention to it,'' he said. ''But when the tournament is on, it'll look the same as it's always looked.''

Six-time champion Jack Nicklaus wanted to see the course before offering his opinion.

''They've obviously made length a factor from what I've heard, but it's pretty hard to comment until you really know it,'' he said.

The other massive change was at No. 1, which had been 410 yards uphill with a bunker down the right side that didn't pose a problem to the big hitters.

The tees were moved back 25 yards, which required the club to rebuild the putting green. Also, the bunker was extended 15 yards toward the green, so the drive must travel 300 yards to carry it.

Changes are nothing new to Augusta National. Every hole has been altered -- some more subtly than others -- since the course designed by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie opened in 1933.

Among the more significant changes over the years was moving the 10th green from a valley to an elevated surface, adding the pond on the par-3 16th and changing from Bermuda to bent grass in 1981.

''Beginning in 1934 and throughout their tenure, (former Augusta chairman) Cliff Roberts and Bob Jones made improvements to complement the changing state of the game,'' Johnson said. ''We have continued this philosophy.''

Still, the changes overseen by course architect Tom Fazio represent the second overhaul in the three years Johnson has been chairman. Augusta added light rough two years ago, along with moving back the tee boxes 25 yards on the second and 17th holes and adding pine trees down the right side of the 15th fairway.

Johnson attributed the latest changes to better clubs, better golf balls and better players. ''I think any of us probably hate to see people hitting sand wedges to 425-yar par 4s,'' he said in April.

While most of the attention is on length, the changes will test accuracy. Success at Augusta is being in the best position in the fairway to attack the heavily contoured greens, which remain Augusta's best defense.

Seven of the changed holes were par 4s. Tees were moved back 45 yards on No. 7, which features an elevated green surrounded by steep bunkers. They also were moved back 30 yards on No. 9, another uphill green where Greg Norman spun his ball off the putting surface during his collapse in '96.

Even the longer holes got longer -- 10 yards were added to No. 10, making it play 495 yards downhill, while the tee was extended 35 yards on No. 11 so that it plays 490 yards.

One of the most severe holes now could be No. 14, which added 35 yards to the tee box. It's the only hole without bunkers, but huge humps in the green demand precision on the approach.

Two of the par 5s also were changed. The bunker on the right side of No. 8 was doubled in size and, with the tees moved back 20 yards, it now requires a 305-yard drive to carry the bunker. Also, the par-5 13th was moved back 25 yards and now plays at 510 yards.

Three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo was asked in April what such changes, especially to the par 4s, would mean to the players.

''We'd have to use a few more brain cells,'' he said. ''What little we have left.''

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